Concluding Post

            In watching the clips from The Wire my initial instinct was to be defensive about what the show was trying to convey and therefore, caused me to be analytical about the message being portrayed. While reflecting on this, I think it’s hard to say where it extends from, is it my teacher mind searching for the objective, or did this transpire years before? Throughout my years in the teacher education I recall numerous times getting wrapped up in introspective thought; my mentor teacher once told me I was, “too introspective for my own good”, but here I am being introspective about being introspective so she may have had a point. Determining how you look at the world, and why and how you choose the lens you do is no easy task. However, I feel as though being biracial is one of the prominent factors that magnified my lens.

For the record, I loath playing the biracial card, and I’m not going to deal it in the traditional sense. I did not have a radical experience where one day my race seemed to matter, rather it was just kind of always there. Growing up with virtually all of your friends being nothing like you, I assumed I was just meant to be different from other people. This perception gave me courage to experience life in the way I wanted to because I wasn’t so wrapped up in being “normal”, I was different from the people I surrounded myself with and I loved it. In a way, I owe my exterior for granting me the courage to explore my interior; which is ironic because far too often our society talks about the limitations being a minority brings people, but that is another introspective thought for another time.

            I feel as though my race allowed me to see the world differently, and look at the overall bigger picture of what was happening, rather than the actual happenings; which is probably why I viewed the clips in the way that I did. There were apparent norms of class and race being presented and I chose to analyze that, my race allowed me to think in the manner in which I do. However, this was not the case for Richard Rodriquez. His race gave him more of a perspective as an outsider, “I’d wait to hear her voice return to soft-sounding Spanish, which assured me, as surely did the clicking tongue of the lock on the door, that the stranger was gone” (p. 16). Although the linguistic factor was something I did not have to experience, and I am well aware it would have made a huge difference, it’s hard to believe how different our race made us feel about and react with the world.

            One distinction I can make about race and culture is how each of them developed throughout the years. I did not grow up in a bilingual family where I was the token Mexican family, my involvement with my ethnicity was the fact that it made me different, and not even in a negative way. During Rodriquez’s time, these factors changed the way in which he saw education, “I easily noted the difference between classroom language and the language of home. At school, words were directed to a general audience of listeners. (Boys and girls) Words were meaningfully order. And the point was not self-expression alone but to make oneself understood by many others” (p. 19). Although my culture weighs heavy to me on who I am, it does not necessarily get translated like that into society. The norms personified in The Wire were exactly the norms that had to be hidden for Rodriquez; and that is how culture and education are related, through their disconnect. Culture is so ingrained in everything that we say and do, it sets a standard to which students fall into, but it’s never addressed. It affects everything except for the ability to generate communication about it.

So maybe I just answered my own question: What relevance does this show have on American culture? To bridge the gap between culture and education by creating a fictional situation in which to start a dialogue!

            To me this means we have to broaden our perspectives as educators. If you are going to be influencing the minds of others, shouldn’t you extend yours to see what other perspectives are out there? This matters to me because it is the basis as to why I entered education in the first place. People always have the radical idea that I became an elementary school teacher because I love children. False. I mean, I do, but that was not the compelling argument that one me over to the world of education. I did not become a teacher because of my love for children, but for my hate of bigotry. Bigotry and hate are taught; it is our role to teach students beyond the curriculum and onto what it means to be human. I mean isn’t that the whole point? Which leads me to why I am living my life the way I am. I have to keep traveling to find out what else is out there and share it among different systems of education. Which is why these are my goals for the next three dates:

 

Goal 1: Hold myself accountable while teaching at Anuban by August 2nd, 2014

Taking these courses has kept me grounded in my teaching here. I feel as though I could teach just about anything and act in any certain way without having to worry about job security, and that terrifies me. I have to admit I have become a bit complacent during this experience; knowing that most of what I do here goes unseen and unnoticed. It was a weird juxtaposition going from being an intern and having all eyes on me, to being at Anuban where communication in education simply does not exist between Thai and farang teachers. That being said, I need to step it up. Yes I am excited about my travels, but I originally came here to teach and I need to remind myself of that. I want to hold myself to a higher standard than I am being held to, I should expect more out of myself and my work, regardless if anyone is watching me. Therefore, I will be spending my long bus ride this weekend on mapping out unit plans and individual lessons for my subjects and begin to analyze the date of the students work. I have already talked to one of my Thai teachers about having more say in where students are being placed within the classroom. Asserting myself into a role of more responsibility will hopefully help in taking on a bigger leadership role.

 

Goal 2: Plan my trip to India by September 15th, 2014

Keep traveling; keep growing, keep an open mind. By mid September I hope set my plans for my trip to India. As stated earlier, I am growing a bit weary of the education system and need to get back to basics. I’ve decided to volunteer as a teacher in orphanages and failing schools around India for the duration of next year. In doing so, I hope to reintroduce myself to teaching while learning about the culture of their education system. I have already made contact with several schools and orphanages, but I want to set everything in stone; plan the durations of my stay, the specific locations and think about what my duties there will be like. From there I will be able to physically see and mentally comprehend what awaits for me next year!

 

Goal 3: Share my experiences abroad with the American education system by September 15th, 2019

Since the fateful day that is graduation day I have always said I would give myself five years to travel and then come back to the states. This goal would fall into this time frame, although this was the hardest goal for me to consider even though it was a goal of mine all along. I have to know that my experiences won’t be for nothing educationally. A part of me is fearful that when I return home I will avoid the American education system altogether; having this goal will work against that. Although I am not exactly sure how I want to share my experiences, if I want to continue my education and get a PhD or simply share them with my own elementary classroom, I just have to know that they will be shared. One step that I am taking in doing this is keeping a journal simply for educational experiences. My personal, and traveling experiences do coincide with teaching, however I think it is important that I look at these experiences individually and contextually. It is my hope that I do not stray from doing what I love, regardless of where I am.

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Cycle 3: The Relationship Between Schools and Home Cultures

One of the greatest challenges I find about working in the education system is the importance of exterior appearances. As our society has grown and developed, our ability to connect and communicate across great lengths has increased at rapid speed. This allows us to bring the walls in a little closer to the vastness of our world; otherwise I probably would not be able to be in this course, writing this blog, right? And it is a beautiful, extraordinary thing, but has created some demons as well. Being abroad alongside co-workers with no teacher training can be a bit frustrating while trying to collaborate lesson ideas, classroom management tips etc. Therefore, I am very grateful to websites such as Teacherspayteachers, Pinterest, and, for when I am feeling particularly lazy, straight up Google. However, the more I bag, borrow or steal these ideas online, the worse I feel about education as an institution. While I believe that you cannot judge someone until you know their story, I am judging their teacher websites. It is not to check their teaching pedagogy, or critique their classroom effectiveness, but to answer the question, why so over the top? Having these blogs, posts, and websites has made teaching become trendy and cutesy, the elaborate design often makes question if these teachers do it for the sake of their students or for the sake of a repost or friendly comment. These articles reminded me of this as the next, new innovating things might not actually be helping our kids at all.

The Schoolhome article was an interesting read as it peaked the same underlying theme while raising a new issue, where are the connections between what we are teaching our students and real life application? The line that hit me hardest was, “just how many students of those students in Chris Zajak’s and Jessica Siegel’s schools are unable to establish rapport with a curriculum that does not reach out to them no one really knows” (p. 54). Just as I stated about that technological advancements are changing teachers’ perspectives on education, it is also changing what our curriculum should be based upon. We live in a world today where the ability to memorize will soon become obsolete. There is actually no necessary reason to teach our students facts without application. At any point during my day I can look up almost any answer to any question I have. Again, this is a beautiful thing, but it changes the dynamic of what we are to be teaching our students. For example, the workbooks used for the English Program at my current school are ridiculous; they are jam-packed full of vocabulary with vague fill-in-the-blank spaces and unnecessary repetition. Language learning is not about mimicking sounds, and copying letters, but about communication. If I need to know a word in Thai really fast, I have an app for that; however, the context in when to use variations of that word is not something good ol’ Siri can tell me – that’s where education comes into play. Just as the students in this article were only given various pieces of actual truth, by only granting education in the context seen fit to the educator and their generational view, students will not be able to evolve and thrive in their new society.

One aspect about Jane Addam’s chapter eighteen was her attentiveness to the importance of student connection to classroom content. Even as a learner now I find this to be true – I search for what peaks my interest, I suppose we all do. Students must find value in what they are learning; however the basis of that value does not necessarily have to be a deep, personal connection. During my internship year I was able to see this carried out in many of my kids. My mentor teacher never asked students what they “wanted to be when they grew up”, but “what were they going to do to earn money?” At first in hearing this, I thought it was a little harsh for third graders, but once I understood the students and their community and was able to comprehend the effectiveness of talking so maturely about their future. Understanding that sometimes the cards are stacked up against our students and that education is their only way out was one of my biggest lessons that year. Students did not have to necessarily initially care about education for the sake of learning, but understand its importance as a means to create a better life for themselves.

Overall I believe there are contextualized elements that create various dynamics between home and school cultures, as there should be. However, in order to look home versus school cultures on a broader perspective, as educators, we must look through a lens that indicates where the blends of these two will take our society in the future.

Relating article: Sir Ken Robinson on What’s the School of Your Dreams

“A really great school would be a mix of what you would find in your community”

http://blog.ted.com/2012/04/29/video-sir-ken-robinson-whats-in-the-school-of-your-dreams/

Cycle 2: Cultural Assimilation & Social Mobility

The story of Richard Rodriquez’s education in Hunger of Memory resonated with me on several aspects in various levels. His writing provoked me to contemplate the role of ethnicity in my education, gave me a refreshing perspective in my current position as a farang, and insight into the standards I wish to hold myself by in my future teaching.

As a biracial Hispanic living in the United States I always felt as if I had something to prove in order to deem myself an “authentic Mexican”. More times than not I feel this works as compensation for my inability to speak Spanish. My mother is white and by the time my Mexican father was born, my grandparents immigrated to Michigan prior to his birth, his siblings had begun to assimilate into American culture, this including language. In reading this article I found Rodriquez’s stance on public versus private space very interesting, “I’d wait to hear her voice return to soft-sounding Spanish, which assured me, as surely did the clicking tongue of the lock on the door, that the stranger was gone” (p. 16). The comfort children find in the privacy of their home is not cultural, it is simply an aspect of childhood; however, having language resonate that strongly with such a young child will inevitably cause an effect on their education. Within the realms of education, teachers have been taught the importance of building a classroom community and a place for discussion to flourish. But when our classrooms are as diverse in their language as they are in their individuals, how can create such an environment? Rodriquez is right in understanding the differentiation between private and public space, but as an educator, it is my hope that school is a different category entirely. School is one of those rare places where public and private spheres are mixed, a different type of community is created. For a young Rodriquez to place school in the category of public only proves his personal needs were not being met in education.

Although I traveled to Thailand as a teacher, I find myself more in the shoes of a learner. There have been so many moments where I found myself empathetic thinking about the previous foreign exchange students I observed in college. Just as Rodriquez found himself surrounded by speakers of Spanish and away from gringos, I find myself venturing to locations where I know their will be speakers of English. I was also curious about the large population of Asian students at Michigan State are what appeared to be their concerning need to only spend time with one another. But as I find myself in a similar situation I realize the importance of familiarity. As much as I wish to immerse myself in different culture, sometimes, at the end of a long day all I want to do is go somewhere with English speakers and eat western food; it is just easier that way. So too I feel this is the case with not only Rodriquez, foreign exchange students in the United States and myself, but with the world of language. It is less complicated to communicate when language isn’t an issue. How do we learn to create an environment in this world, much less the education system, that is inclusive for language and culture, which is invariably the same thing?

The education experience, as well as my teaching experiences, are just that, experiences to be learned from so that I may become a better teacher with new perspective. The standard to which I hold myself to in the classroom should not waiver due to my teaching location, but should be adapted based on the context of the classroom. Again, Rodriquez not only differentiated his language experience based off of private and public spheres, but on the expression and meaning behind the language being used, “I easily noted the difference between classroom language and the language of home. At school, words were directed to a general audience of listeners. (Boys and girls) Words were meaningfully order. And the point was not self-expression alone but to make oneself understood by many others” (p. 19). This type of distinction is an indication of where our emphasis in education, is it more important for students to be assimilated into the culture of school and following orders, or to be thinkers of the world? My hope is the latter, but if we want to change the language of the classroom, as teachers we have to look at just how we are speaking within the classroom. 

Cycle 1: The Culture of Childhood

The common theme I found most apparent across these three, various texts was the notion of an ongoing power struggle between adolescents and adults. Whether these relationships took place in the form of parents and children, or teachers and students, there appeared to be a hierarchy when discussing these interpersonal relationships across contexts: parental involvement, discipline in schools and exterior identification.

Rosin’s, Hey Parents Leave Those Kids Alone, addressed the ever-popular topic of parental involvement, specifically within the United States. I find that it is basic American culture to be fearful for our children, as if we are giving out parenting awards for the amount of hours one lies awake pondering the dangers of the world for their off-spring, but why must this be? Surely there must be more to this child-rearing thing than consistently being paralyzed by fear. In comparing this idea with a more global perspective, I feel as though, through my own personal interactions and experiences, being a helicopter parent is a luxury in and of itself. Fathers, mothers, and guardians that have the time and leisure to obsess over ever bump, scrape and bruise are more likely than not, ones of higher class via the United States. Of course this is not a one-size fits all, however I feel some parents do not have the privilege of being over-bearing, that their parenting tactics are “hands-off” by necessity. When Rosin ponders, “failure to supervise has become, in fact, synonymous with failure to parent”, what demographic is she speaking of and more importantly, to? The issue of power comes in to place when there is an assumption that parent presence is essential for a child’s survival via the playground. It is to assume that without this authoritative figure overseeing the child’s every move, the will be unable to engage in playtime without serious injury. By making adult supervision essential you are taking away the power the child has to assert his or her own independence and sense making. Now I’m not saying we should let toddlers push their own stroller to the playground each day, but there’s got to be some moderation here…

Discipline will always be a hot topic when balancing relationship powers between children and adults. On the one hand, adults need to step in when safety is concerned, but on the other, children need to develop their own reasoning skills during challenging situations. I loved the bit where Tobin touches on the maturity aspect of the children’s behaviors during the course of the observation, “In these physical tussles the girls are not so much out of control as they are acting like four-year-old children, children who are not so much misbehaving as behaving pro-socially, but in an immature, kudono-rasbi way” (pg. 108). The topic raised is one typically forgotten, they are kids, not little adults, immaturity is part of the process. In reading this I immediate thought about Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalk on, How to escape education’s death valley, as he discusses, in his compelling humorous way, why students are acting out in immature ways, “Children are not, for the most part, suffering from a psychological condition. They’re suffering from childhood”. Which is exactly it! The writing topic centered around preschool-aged children, which I find interesting because this group of students is assimilating into two different cultures. Firstly, they are discovering what it means to be a student in the academic world and the responsibilities it carries, discipline and “acting appropriately” being a main factor in this. Secondly, they are assimilating to what it means to be a human being and the interaction it takes to do so. It is animalistic nature to want to hit someone/thing that took something from you, even if it is a teddy bear, we are wired to protect what is hard. Given that and the fact that these children are still learning these social norms, of course the issue of maturity and discipline are going to arise.

And finally Aries’, Century of Childhood, really made me dig deeper into a curiosity I have been battling against since my teaching abroad, how are we identifying students and what do these distinctions mean for their development academically and socially? Both teaching experiences, in non-American cultures, rely very heavily on dress to assert authority over the students. I found this specifically in the sense of student uniforms and lavish teaching get-ups. The ideology that students appear more respectful, and “polite”, a term I have grown to detest, is as important, if not more, than the students’ actual actions in being polite. Aries makes a great point as the distinction actually widens the gap between the two age groups, “these customs distinguishing between children and adults clothing reveal a new desire to put children on one side, to separate them by a sort of uniform” (pg. 55). In making a visual distinction I feel as though students are seen as a sea of similar types without distinction, while adults have the power or freedom to dress individually, hence, asserting their authority once more.
My biggest concern when discussing these issues is the message it is sending our children. By enforcing harsh norms in their daily lives I feel as though any type of curiosity against the norm is seen as defiance, but what is education if not manic curiosity?

Sharing

Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalk on How to escape education’s death valley

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX78iKhInsc

Introduction Post

Hey everyone, my name is Tessa Gonzales. I am from Muskegon, MI and completed my undergrad at Michigan State University – the best school on Earth! There I received a Bachelor’s in Education with a concentration in Language Arts and a minor in TESOL. Currently I am a first grade English teacher at Anuban Khon Kaen in Thailand. I enjoy traveling, running, reading, and could listen to Bob Dylan all day, every day. I hope this course will help to expand my perceptions in the culture of education.

The Wire

The blatant juxtaposition of race, class, and gender within a low socioeconomic community, portrayed in this television series, depicts the overwhelming concern of inequality within American culture, specifically the American education system. I could very well go over 500 words expressing my concerns after viewing:

the ineffective classroom management by the token white male,

the misuse of classroom resources in an urban school district,

the importance of equity versus equality when working with students

and/or the effects of disciplinary actions on students’ portrayal of authority

– these are all purposeful depictions of barriers faced far too often within the world of education, but what concerns me is the bigger picture: how is the existence of this show relevant to American culture?

This series works to portray a message; it was not created for the value of pure entertainment, but to act as a medium – bringing the politics of education, poverty, class, and race to life. My concern with these genres of storytelling, whether it be on television or a movie, in a book or magazine, an interpretation in a painting, or song, they all tell contextual stereotypes as generic truths. Stereotypes are derived from types of truths within in culture, as much as it pains me to succumb to this reality, stereotypes have some merit. Growing up in a biracial family I know it was difficult to my white friends to believe I did, in fact, engage in piñata swinging, tortilla consuming, and mariachi listening while celebrating each and every holiday. It’s uncomfortable for the majority to admit the preconceived assumptions of minority culture, and I get that. However purposefully displaying them for an entire culture to absorb is a completely different endeavor.

Watching Mr. P teach absolutely nauseated me, his demeanor, lack of knowledge, and overall awakwardness tightened every muscle in my body. Once calming these aggressive instincts I took a look at his role in the story collectively. There is a team of writers, producers, and consultants focused solely on the portrayal of this character, right down to his schoolboy wardrobe and white-boy walk. The same goes for each and every character – they are depictions of what these writers want to demonstrate about American culture. So again I ask, what is the message here; what objectives are these staff members trying to reach?

Before this can be answered I suppose we must consider what demographic this series is trying to captivate – is it the young, black man they are trying to give a voice to, the bleeding-heart educator they are trying to sympathize with, or am I completely off-based and this is merely a creation of entertainment bliss? The objective derives from the intended audience, but is the average American suited for the comprehension of these portrayals?

While I appreciate the existence of this show and the message it is putting forth into the world, I cannot help but feel annexed toward this movement. Immersing the audience in pretending to know the other half is kind of ruining the joke.